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News Release

Thursday, May 13, 2004
Contact: Brendan LaCivita
Tel: 202-606-2402

OPM Director Kay Coles James Issues Strong Message on Bogus Degrees

James Praises Senator Collins and Representative Davis for Leadership

Memorandum identifies acceptable categories of higher education

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Kay Coles James today issued a memorandum (attached) to heads of agencies and departments with a strong message on the use of diploma mills: "There is no place in federal employment for degrees or credentials from diploma mills."

"Our position is clear," stated James in the memorandum. "Diploma mills may not be used to qualify for federal jobs or salaries; you may not send employees to diploma mills for degree training or for any other form of education; you may not reimburse employees for tuition associated with these schools; and you may not use your authority to repay student loans if the degree is from a diploma mill."

James also took the opportunity to praise Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representative Tom Davis (R-VA) for their leadership on the issue. In her memorandum, James said, "I appreciate the strong leadership and assistance both Senator Collins and Representative Davis have provided on this issue. Their efforts highlight the fact that this issue is of central importance to the entire government, and one that requires the cooperative vigilance of both the executive and legislative branches to maintain the integrity of the civil service. There is no place in federal employment for degrees or credentials from diploma mills."

The Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and House Government Reform committees recently finished two days of hearings on bogus degrees.

OPM has completed a review of the applicable statutes, regulations, policy documents, public information and forms within its jurisdiction to determine how the agency can strengthen and clarify how agencies, employees, and applicants can become better informed of the issues relating to diploma mills.

The review included OPM policies related to paying for academic degrees directly or through tuition reimbursement, repayment of student loans, employee training, higher education required to meet position qualification requirements, and the use of advanced education in the applicant ranking process. OPM further reviewed all forms and instructions where the issue might surface. Additionally, OPM reviewed the background investigations process as it relates to verification of education claims and the standards for adjudicating investigations when bogus degrees have been identified.

"President George W. Bush expects a federal work force that is efficient and effective, and above all, honest," James stated. "We will not tolerate the use of bogus degrees for dishonest claims of education or experience for federal promotion or employment."

The memorandum also outlined four distinct categories of acceptable higher education: Conventional/Accredited; Non-Accredited/Pending Accreditation; Non-Accredited/Other; and Non-Qualifying, with thorough descriptions for each. By specifying acceptable educational areas, OPM hopes to eliminate any confusion regarding student loan repayment, tuition reimbursement, and academic training for position qualification requirements.

"Clarifying what are and are not acceptable sources of educational requirements is one of many steps OPM is taking to address the growing concern of diploma mill use," James stated. "The integrity of the federal work force must be maintained at all times and we will work tirelessly to do that."

OPM last year initiated two half-day training seminars for agency human resources managers and security personnel. Late last week, OPM wrapped-up its latest seminars on the use of bogus degrees. Three-hundred forty human resources directors and specialists from throughout the government attended the sessions and with sufficient interest, OPM will conduct additional training seminars. Over the past year, more than 750 agency officials have been trained. Heads of agencies and departments are asked to have their Chief Human Capital Officers contact OPM's Division for Human Capital Leadership and Merit System Accountability for more information.
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OPM leads and serves the Federal Government in enterprise human resources management by delivering policies and services to achieve a trusted, effective civilian workforce. By Empowering Excellence in Government through Great People, we provide leadership and support to U.S. agencies on issues including human resources policy and oversight, background investigations, federal employee benefits, retirement services, guidance on labor-management relations, and programs to improve workforce performance. For more information, visit or follow OPM on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

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